India & Ramsar Convention
India has a wealth of wetland ecosystems distributed across various eco- geographical regions that range from Himalayas to Deccan plateau. Varied topography and climatic regimes support and sustain diverse and unique wetland habitats in our country.
According to the Directory of Asian Wetlands (1989), India has totally 27,403 wetlands, of which 23,444 are inland wetlands and 3,959 are coastal wetlands.
Wetlands occupy 18.4% of the country’s area of which 70% are under paddy cultivation.
Natural wetlands in India consist of high altitude wetlands in Himalayas; flood plains of the major river systems; saline and temporary wetlands of the arid and semi-arid regions; coastal wetlands such as lagoons, backwaters, estuaries, mangroves, swamps and coral reefs, and so on. In addition to these natural wetlands, a large number of man-made wetlands, which have resulted from the needs of irrigation, water supply, electricity, fisheries and flood control, are substantial in number. These wetlands can be classified into different categories on the basis of their origin, vegetation, nutrient status and thermal characteristics.
In India, out of an estimated 4.1 m ha (excluding irrigated agricultural lands, rivers, and streams) of wetlands, 1.5 m ha are natural, while 2.6 m ha are manmade. The coastal wetlands occupy an estimated 6,750 sq km, and are largely dominated by mangrove vegetation. The Wildlife Institute of India’s survey reveals that they are disappearing at a rate of 2% to 3% every year.
Efforts to conserve wetlands in India began in 1987 and the main focus of governmental efforts is on biological methods of conservation rather than adopting engineering options. A national wetland mapping project has also been initiated for an integrated approach on conservation.
India became a contracting party to the Ramsar Convention in October 1981 and designated Chilika Lake (Orissa) and Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan) as its first two Ramsar Sites.
Four additional sites were designated in 1990: Sambhar Lake (Rajasthan), Loktak Lake (Manipur), Harike Lake (Punjab) and Wular Lake (Jammu & Kashmir).
Right now, India has 25 Ramsar Sites (February 2011) as follows.